LOS ANGELES – Kentucky men’s basketball players Reid Travis, PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson were three of 50 players selected for the John R. Wooden Award’s Preseason Top 50. Kentucky is one of three programs with three players among the top 50 preseason favorites for the Wooden Award’s Player of the Year trophy.
UK’s trio was selected Monday for the 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy, awarded annually to the national player of the year by the Atlanta Tipoff club. Washington and Travis are among 20 players for the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I Player of the Year, and they were also tabbed preseason All-Southeastern Conference First Team by the league’s coaches earlier Tuesday.
The preseason top 50 list represents 12 conferences, 34 upperclassmen, 19 seniors and eight freshmen. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2019 John R. Wooden Award Men’s Player of the Year. Players not chosen to the preseason list are still eligible for the Wooden Award midseason list, late-season list and the national ballot.
The national ballot consists of 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average.
Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players, who have been qualified as meeting the standards set forth by Coach Wooden and the Wooden Award Steering Committee. Voting will open prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance during early round games. The Wooden Award All American Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2018 John R. Wooden Award will be presented during the ESPN College Basketball Awards presented by Wendy’s on April 12.
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is the only winner in program history. He claimed the honor in 2012 after helping lead Kentucky to its eighth national championship in program history.
Travis is a graduate transfer who earned All-Pac 12 First Team honors at Stanford a season ago after averaging 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He scored in double figures in all but one of his 35 games, including a career-high 33 points at Washington. He finished his decorated career with the Cardinal having become one of just three players in program history to amass at least 1,400 career points and 700 rebounds in fewer than 100 games played.
The 6-foot-8 big man averaged a double-double during UK’s six exhibition games (including the Bahamas trip) with 12.8 points and a team-high 10.8 boards per game. He recorded double-doubles in the final three games, including a dominating 22-point, 14-rebound effort vs. Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Friday.
Washington is UK’s leading returning scorer at 10.8 points and rebounder at 5.7 per game. He started in 30 of the 37 games he played in a season ago. He saved his best basketball for late in the season where he scored in double figures in 11 of the final 12 games of the season, averaging 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 57.6 percent from the floor. He played in all 40 minutes and posted a double-double vs. Kansas State in the Sweet 16 with 18 points and a career-high 15 boards to couple with a career-high-tying three steals.
The sophomore from Dallas led UK in scoring during the exhibition slate with 15.0 points per game, in addition to 7.2 rebounds per outing. Washington shot 60.4 percent from the floor, blocked 10 shots and totaled seven steals. In the final exhibition tune-up, he posted 20 points, six rebounds and three swats.
Johnson is one of the headliners of another highly-touted signing class. The 6-6 guard out of Oak Hill Academy (Va.) averaged 12.8 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting at a 53.8-percent clip during Kentucky’s exhibition games. Perhaps his best game so far was a 16-point outing vs. Mega Bemax, a professional team from Serbia, in the Bahamas.
Ranked as high as No. 7 overall in the 2018 signing class, Johnson was selected to both the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic in the spring. He was a consensus five-star prospect, was tabbed the Virginia Gatorade High School Player of the year and led his Boo Williams (Va.) AAU team to the semifinals of the Peach Jam.
The Wildcats tip off their season Tuesday vs. Duke in the annual State Farm Champions Classic. That game is scheduled for a 9:30 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN, after the Kansas-Michigan State matchup.